Joga Bonito: Remembering when Nike brought 'the beautiful game' to our screens

Has football ever truly become “the beautiful game” it claims to be? Perhaps not, but Nike gave it a good go with their sensational Joga Bonito ad campaign back in the mid-noughties.

The phrase “Joga Bonito” is Portuguese for “play beautiful”, and the series of short videos was designed to combat cynicism in the game and promote skill and elegance – a concept undermined somewhat by the employ of Eric Cantona, famed for an ugly incident in which he kicked a fan.

In the long term, perhaps Joga Bonito failed to inspire a footballing utopia, but it did leave us with some formative football clips which inspired a generation to at least TRY to play nice.

Ronaldo v Zlatan

A good decade later, and these two are still arguably at the top of their respective games: Cristiano Ronaldo v Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Both show off some silky skill, aided by some utterly useless defending, before Eric Cantona declares he can’t choose a winner. Thanks Eric, you had one job.

Brazil – the ultimate team

If only England had a couple of tambourines and a more laissez-faire attitude, they might be winning World Cups and creating lovely adverts. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

This is Ronaldinho at his tambourine-slapping, ball-juggling best, introducing the fake pass to the world. You know you’re going to lose when your opponents are literally filming an advert before they play you.

Thierry Henry at his coolest

The modern football world, with its Paul Pogbas and Jesse Lingards, has moved on somewhat from Thierry Henry’s era – nevertheless, this advert demonstrates just what “cool” should look like in a football shirt and jogging bottoms.

Henry takes to the five-a-side pitch to show off his silky footwork, before making a mockery of a defender with his final goal. He’s definitely not going to get invited to play again.

A young Ronaldinho

The greatest music in this list, Cantona presents to us a vision of Ronaldinho’s childhood, where it’s clear he was always destined for great things.

We’re seriously inspired by this joyous video. In fact, we’re going to go and try that back-heel elastico right now! *breaks both ankles*

Wayne Rooney plays rush goalie

“Without heart, you cannot play,” Cantona tells us, confirming our suspicions that organs are an essential part of an athlete’s performance.

Here, a young Wayne Rooney puts himself in goal before scoring with the gloves on, while Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrates a surprising command of theatre.

‘Three Brazilians and a ball’

“What else do you need? Joga Bonito.”


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